Should Ontarians settle for six thousand fewer teachers?

On October 24, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce held a press conference to update the public on ongoing contract talks with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. The Minister repeatedly stated that his government is offering to lower high school class sizes from 28 to 25 students per teacher. He said it 14 times during a 26-minute conference. It wasn’t long before Toronto Star reporter Robert Benzie reminded the Minister that his government had increased class sizes from 22 to 28 students; Benzie called the new proposal simply a “slightly less draconian” measure.

The offer on the table is not actually a reduction in class size. It’s an increase.

But what would be the impact of this “less draconian” proposal? How many teachers would each of the 72 school boards lose? That’s what we’re examining in this post.

To recap, the Ontario government increased school class sizes as part of a series of public services cuts approved in the past year. Under the government plan, class sizes in Grade 4 to 8 would increase from 23.84 students per teacher to 24.50; class sizes in high school (Grades 9 to 12) would jump from 22 students on average to 28. As a further cost-cutting measure, the province decreed that high school students would be required to earn four credits online instead of in the classroom. The government then set up a temporary $1.6 billion Job Protection Fund to ease the transition.

In September, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) estimated that there would be 10,054 fewer teachers in the education system by the 2023-2024 school year as a result of these changes. The FAO estimate took into account the growing school-age population and compared the number of teachers under the new rules with the number of teachers that would have been employed if the government had not increased class sizes and made online learning mandatory.

Using similar assumptions as the FAO report, but relying on publicly available data, we arrived at a similar estimate for teaching jobs lost province-wide (9,984). Then we adjusted the formulas to the “less draconian” measure offered yesterday at the bargaining table, and applied them to all school boards.

Under the government’s latest proposal, by 2023-2024, there would be approximately 5,900 fewer teachers (1,000 elementary teachers and 4,900 high school teachers) in Ontario’s education system as a result of class size increases and mandatory e-learning. The board by board estimates are listed below in Table 1.

The number of teaching positions eliminated is proportional to the number of students in each board: the more students there are, the more teaching positions eliminated. The Toronto DSB will have 686 fewer teachers and the York Region DSB will lose 381 positions. Smaller boards like the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario and the Thunder Bay Catholic School District will lose 39 and 21 teachers, respectively.

Our estimates assume a uniform 0.8% enrolment growth across school boards and the full implementation of the e-learning policy in 2020-2021. The figures provided are the totals for the 2023-2024 school year. Numbers include elementary and secondary classroom teaching jobs.

The limitation of these calculations is that they only capture classroom teacher positions funded through the largest funding envelope (the Pupil Foundation Allocation). They do not include other classroom staff and education workers who are funded through other grants to provide fundamental supports to students, inside and outside the classroom. Additional analyses are needed to capture these losses.

Even with this limitation, these are already staggering numbers.

The 4,900 fewer high school teachers, working 8 hours per day, 194 days per year, add up to the loss of more than 7.6 million instruction hours per year. Divide that by the estimated 624,500 high school school students in the 2023-2024 school year, and we conclude that each individual student will miss out on nearly 50 hours of teacher time throughout their high school career.

This time is needed to improve students’ academic achievement, support their individual needs, tap into their talents, and, in general, equip them for life and the job market. They are losing all of this. And what are they getting instead? More screen time and less face-to-face interaction with educators—likely the last thing most of them need.

Verdict: Losing 5,900 teachers is a really bad deal for Ontario students.

School Board Teaching positions eliminated by 2023-2024
Algoma DSB 28
Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic DSB 33
Avon Maitland DSB 46
Bluewater DSB 42
Brant Haldimand Norfolk CDSB 33
Bruce-Grey Catholic DSB 15
Catholic DSB of Eastern Ontario 38
CEP de l’Est de l’Ontario 39
Conseil scolaire Viamonde 24
CSC MonAvenir 38
CSC Providence 22
CSD catholique Centre-Est de l’Ontario 62
CSD catholique de l’Est ontarien 26
CSD catholique des Aurores boréales 2
CSD catholique des Grandes Rivières 15
CSD catholique du Nouvel-Ontario 17
CSD catholique Franco-Nord 7
CSD du Nord-Est de l’Ontario 4
CSP du Grand Nord de l’Ontario 6
DSB of Niagara 113
DSB Ontario North East 22
Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB 287
Durham Catholic DSB 63
Durham DSB 209
Grand Erie DSB 74
Greater Essex County DSB 112
Halton Catholic DSB 122
Halton DSB 188
Hamilton-Wentworth Cath DSB 97
Hamilton-Wentworth DSB 133
Hastings & Prince Edward DSB 43
Huron-Perth Catholic DSB 13
Huron-Superior Catholic DSB 9
Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB 89
Keewatin-Patricia DSB 15
Kenora Catholic DSB 4
Lakehead DSB 24
Lambton Kent DSB 64
Limestone DSB 58
London Dist. Catholic School 66
Near North DSB 29
Niagara Catholic DSB 63
Nipissing-Parry Sound Cath DSB 8
Northeastern Catholic DSB 5
Northwest Catholic DSB 1
Ottawa Catholic DSB 129
Ottawa-Carleton DSB 226
Peel DSB 417
PVNC Catholic DSB 45
Rainbow DSB 38
Rainy River DSB 7
Renfrew County Catholic DSB 11
Renfrew County DSB 28
Simcoe County DSB 151
Simcoe Muskoka Catholic DSB 67
St. Clair Catholic DSB 25
Sudbury Catholic DSB 17
Superior North Catholic DSB 0
Superior-Greenstone DSB 5
Thames Valley DSB 221
Thunder Bay Catholic DSB 21
Toronto Catholic DSB 268
Toronto DSB 686
Trillium Lakelands DSB 44
Upper Canada DSB 77
Upper Grand DSB 102
Waterloo Catholic DSB 67
Waterloo Region DSB 195
Wellington Catholic DSB 22
Windsor-Essex Catholic DSB 66
York Catholic DSB 168
York Region DSB 381
Province of Ontario 5,895
Sources: Ontario Ministry of Education, 2019-2020 School Boards Estimates; Ministry of Education, Education Funding Technical Paper 2018-2019; Ministry of Education, Education Funding Technical Paper 2019-2020; FAO, Expenditure Estimates 2019-20; calculations by the author.

Ricardo Tranjan is a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office. Follow Ricardo on Twitter: @ricardo_tranjan.

 

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